The Anointed: Reviews

‘It gives nothing away to say that this fierce, sinewy novel ends with the newly anointed King Solomon laying the cornerstone for the First Temple of Jerusalem.  For it is not the new beginning but the preceding dynastic carnage that’s gripping – the blood-strewn road to spirituality and wisdom, through murder, sensuality and betrayal, as described by three women, wives of King David, who travel it in exhilaration and terror.’
Howard Jacobson

‘Any reader will be captivated by the emotions, and experiences, of all the women in King David’s life. Cruelty, tenderness, betrayal, bereavement, and sheer terror are all vividly portrayed in the women’s own voices. And, as the Bible stories come to life, the once ‘heroic’ King David emerges looking soiled and vicious. I loved it.’ 
Julia Neuberger

‘What a superb idea it was to portray King David though the experiences of three of his clever, determined wives who are witness to his vulnerabilities, recipients of his secrets and bear the children that will cause him strife. In bringing the neglected figures of Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba to powerful life, Michael Arditti also paints a lethally honest portrait of an Old Testament hero.  It is a novel that makes one think again and is absolutely fascinating.’
Elizabeth Buchan

‘The Bible is said to be the world’s bestselling book and it is also the most teasing one.  It tells us so much, yet it always leaves us wanting more.  Perhaps because the biblical authors had a different set of priorities to ours, and their audiences cared much less about the things that fascinate us, all the best bits got left out.  So, it is with great joy that the reader will fall upon Michael Arditti’s latest novel… Michal, Abigail and the other wives of King David, having waited for centuries in Michael Arditti they find a worthy scribe.’
Alexander Lucie-Smith, Catholic Herald 

‘King David: ‘What a character! What material for a novel!… I was especially curious to see how Michael Arditti would address the challenge. He has done so ingeniously, disturbingly and triumphantly. Though faithful to the narrative given us in the Books of Samuel, he presents it through the voices of three of David’s many wives, each from her perspective casting a different light on him. Arditti distinguishes these different voices with great skill as he traces the course of David’s journey from marvellous boy to ruthless fighter and cruel tyrant… This is a wonderfully rich novel. Arditti brings Ancient Israel to life. He makes a strange and distant culture vivid and immediate, in all its beauty and horror.’
Allan Massie, The Scotsman

‘Arditti has an unusual voice and perspective that deserve a larger audience. … Rich in history, The Anointed highlights the lost role of women in the foundation stories of the great faiths, and suggests the hidden homoeroticism lurking in otherwise emotionally inexplicable passages in our holy books. Most of all, Arditti asks profound questions about those who feel themselves called to lead – whether they be great kings, godlike figures or today’s statesmen and women. What is the human cost incurred when their self-belief slides into self-delusion – for them and for those around them?’
Peter Stanford, Spectator

‘Michael Arditti has given voices to Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba, the three women closest to King David, who are seen in the Books of Samuel, but seldom heard. It is an extraordinary leap of imagination and empathy, which sheds a sidelight on the legendary king and the world he inhabited… Michael Arditti is one of the few writers able to convey the experience of being religious, without apology or explanation. In The Anointed, he sticks closely to the original story, but gives his famous characters voices that leap off the page, vivid and warm, and wonderfully believable.’
Kate Saunders, Jewish Chronicle

‘Arditti manages to keep an impressive balance between the broader events of the Biblical text and the details and complexities he puts between his characters. It is a finely poised novel; poignant yet exacting, fuelled with momentum, driving the lives of the characters inexorably forward… Karl Marx, himself a challenger of religious and political orthodoxy, was fond of the Latin maxim De omnibus dubitandum est: ‘Everything must be doubted’. Arditti’s novel shows the value of fiction doing this, doubting even the most sacred of texts, and making audiences think, then think again. The combination of his storytelling Arditti’s imaginative invention of new scenes and identities amounts to an important novel, one which gives voice to three women silenced by orthodoxy.’
Patrick Maxwell, The London Magazine

‘The Anointed is a beautiful, bold and imaginative retelling of the story of King David and his wives. The characters are as compulsive and vivid as those in a contemporary dynastic saga such as Succession, but Arditti’s brilliant writing roots them in a fully authentic biblical world… A wonderfully rich, original, profound and absorbing novel.’
Massimo Gava, Dante

Based on the biblical narrative of King David, this novel gives a unique take on the story by giving a voice to the King’s wives, Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba. Their perspectives highlight conflicts of gender and faith in a fascinating way… An interesting and compelling read.

‘Arditti’s bold revisionist take on the Old Testament.’
Max Davidson, Mail on Sunday

The Anointed interweaves the first-person accounts of Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba. All three characters are rendered by Arditti with skill and subtlety. Together, they give us the inside story of David’s rise and reign, a story in which piety, heroism and virtue are veneers for ambition, cruelty and barbarism.  The novel’s strength lies in Arditti’s detailed evocation of women’s lives in ancient Israel, the bonds and the rivalries in the sequestered worlds of the kitchen, the bedroom, the harem… Arditti’s boldest innovation is his handling of religious orthodoxy and its close entanglement with political power.
Rachel Abrahams, Financial Times

The story of David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel is told through three women in his life. This David is a deeply flawed but charismatic hero. His women too are well drawn. The compromises they are forced to make with the men who govern their lives are heartbreaking, especially Bathsheba, the widow of a murdered husband, trapped in the harem of her rapist. Antonia Senior, The Times

At a time when the gulf between religious fundamentalism and secularism has become impossible to negotiate, Michael Arditti’s concerns have never seemed more relevant. His 11th novel retells the story of David, who rose from being a shepherd to founder of Jerusalem following his slaying of the Philistine Goliath. Arditti’s greatest achievement is to explore the man behind the mask without diminishing his heroic achievements. Suffused with a bitter streak of humour, this is neo-Biblical storytelling of a high calibre. The violence and sex are entirely appropriate, allowing the story to breathe, while the suppression of women by patriarchal power-mongers speaks directly to the #MeToo generation. Arditti has given voice to a handful of women unheard for millennia.
Neil Norman, Daily Express

This is a rich tale of love and loss, sorrow and bitterness, motherhood and childlessness. There is something powerful that happens in the telling of the story from a woman’s perspective, which brings to the fore the inequality and powerlessness that are evident in the narrative, but easier to ignore in the way that it is told in 1 and 2 Samuel. This is no gentle read, but it is thought-provoking and challenging, demanding that we look at the great “hero” David with both realism and compassion. Paula Gooder, Church Times

In this deeply rich, descriptive and approachable text, an ancient story is retold and offers for those uninitiated in biblical scholarship greater understanding of a story that has influenced world literature… His narrators emerge from the shadows and offer a remarkable, fresh, provocative and perceptive insight into the timeless story of David, and through that, an enjoyable, contemporary consideration of a key biblical text. Dan Carrier, Camden New Journal